Birmingham Bears’ must-win NatWest T20 Blast clash with Lancashire Lightning on Friday gives them a great chance to power into the last eight with momentum restored, says bowling coach Alan Richardson.
A wobble, featuring several steep batting collapses, in the second half of the group phase has left the Bears needing to beat Lancashire to qualify for the quarter-finals. Defeat will mean they go out.
The pressure is on. But, as Richardson observes, that pressure applies to all games in the tournament from this point onwards – and it’s a pressure that Birmingham have handled before.
“Throughout the T20 season every team will have peaks and troughs,” he said. “It’s just a matter of moving in the right direction when you get to the business end of the tournament and a win on Friday will mean that’s the case with us.
“Sometimes it’s the sides that sneak through that do very well in the tournament. We have been in this position before and won the trophy from it. If we win on Friday we will have an away quarter-final but we have dealt with that before.
“In recent weeks we have been our own worst enemy. We have had opportunities to win games and not taken them. Having to win the last game is not ideal but you could say it’s good practice because at the business end of the tournament you have to win every game.
“We have spoken about the batting collapses. Collapses do happen in T20 but I think we have just had to revisit one or two things and reassess the risks we are taking. It has been a reminder that the basics are really important and you have still got to play good cricket whatever the format.
“I think we just went away from that a little bit at Yorkshire Vikings and Worcestershire Rapids where we were in very strong positions in those games but lost them.”
Standing in Birmingham’s way now is a very familiar figure – Lancashire director of cricket Ashley Giles whose CV includes trophies as both player and director of cricket for the Bears.
Richardson knows that no favours can be expected from their old friend.
“Knowing Ash he will want them to win every game they play, whether it’s against Birmingham Bears or whoever,” he said. “They can’t go through to the quarters but they are holders of the tournament and want to finish as high as possible and get some momentum to carry over into 50-over cricket.
“It should be a cracking game. We have done pretty well at Old Trafford in recent years and have had some really good games in one-day cricket up there and have got some good memories.
“It is a big game but we will just approach it like any other. If we do the basics well and stick to our strengths we have got a massive chance.”